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In business, as in life, we are big and small at the same time

In my desk I always have The pocket Pema Chödrön (a Buddhist nun and teacher).

One of my favorite stories is “Being big and being small at the same time”. She recalls her own experience of being invited to an important event in which she was sometimes treated as an important teacher, and other times as just one member of the group. When she addressed her confusion to the person organising the event she was told, “Well, you have to learn to be big and small at the same time”.

I always look for that quality in people. Do they behave the same when they are up as when they are down in the mud? Do they treat people the same irrespective of their ranking, title or the interest they have in getting something from them?

Businesses are like people in this way. As part of our survival kit, we need to learn to behave as if we are big and small at the same time. Are all the customers equally treated regardless how much they are spending? Are your staff treated with the same respect by managers, irrespective of their ranking in the company?

The lesson behind being big and small is that we are one thing among many others. Sometimes we know, sometimes we don’t, sometimes we are creating a great product, sometimes we fail. We just learn, we don’t make a big fuss, we stand up again and keep on going.

What makes us different is not whether we are the best or the first, but how we behave in the ups and downs. That’s the story that really matters.

Photo by Gael Varoquaux

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